D&D General What is player agency to you?

Oofta

Legend

log in or register to remove this ad

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
its-a-trap.gif


At the danger of not knowing exactly what the conversation has been about ... not that this has ever stopped me before ... I'm not sure that I agree with that statement.

Different games, and different modes of play, are generally better at certain things. When you slather on adjectives like a kid with access to a jar of Nutella (rich, coherent, vibrant), it seems clear that this is supposed to be a statement that these narrative games are "as good" as D&D- a statement I completely agree with.

But they aren't "as good" at D&D at certain things- just as D&D isn't "as good" as those games at other things. If all games were equally as good at the same things, there wouldn't be a need for other games, and people wouldn't have preferences between them!

For example, ne of the advantages of a single point of fictional authority (such as the "DM") is that it can be more cohesive.

To me, this is just an odd statement unless I am misunderstanding it; these games are not D&D, and their strengths and weaknesses are different. They are as capable of producing a rich and vibrant session as D&D, definitely! But I prefer to celebrate their strengths in the sense that they are different, not in the sense that they are the same.
Interesting. Outside the discerning of motives I agree with most everything you said here. Yet I would answer yes - and interestingly enough your last paragraph gets dangerously close to a yes, despite you opening with a no.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I would just say there's agency, period. There is no such thing as separate types of agency in games, there are simply different ways of granting and restricting agency. Some people absolutely make a big deal about "player agency" whether or not you or I do.

Yes, there is agency period. In this case, that of the player playing the game.

There is such a thing as too much choice too much "agency". More agency is not inherently better.

Sure, I'd likely agree. What do you have in mind here?

As far as I'm concerned there's only agency in the game, whether you call it "player" agency or not. But some people do make that distinction, creating subcategories, one of which is "player" agency. If anyone considers "player" agency to only be things the player can directly control, then I'm simply stating that there has to be some other category to describe other types of agency, e.g. character agency. If they don't then it goes back to artificially limiting what is considered agency just to "win" an argument.

You say "in the game"; do you mean in the imaginary world of the game? Or do you mean of the player playing the game?

I don't know why we need subcategories of agency. We're talking about how players can impact the state of play. Not characters, players. Characters have no will... they don't act on their own behalf. The players are the ones expressing agency.

I'm not trying to win any argument so much as just try to get the distinction between player and character in this discussion, and why it's relevant.
 

Raiztt

Adventurer
You say "in the game"; do you mean in the imaginary world of the game? Or do you mean of the player playing the game?

I don't know why we need subcategories of agency. We're talking about how players can impact the state of play. Not characters, players. Characters have no will... they don't act on their own behalf. The players are the ones expressing agency.

I'm not trying to win any argument so much as just try to get the distinction between player and character in this discussion, and why it's relevant.
It's exceedingly relevent - especially if your position is that narrativism provides more agency than simulationism.

In the real world, the one we inhabit, you are analogous to a character in a TTRPG, not the player of a TTRPG.

Narrative gameplay calls for a level of control that doesn't exist in the 'real world' or within the power of a character inside a TTRPG.

So for people like me, and probably @Oofta , there is definitely a distinction between these two types of conceptual agencies.
 

Golroc

Explorer
Supporter
I'm somewhat baffled at the focus on systems and philosophies, and whether one or the other is or is not good at this or that. I've always found the main determining factors for how good of an experience a role-playing session is are the people involved. Their chemistry, their skills, their expectations, their effort, etc. Some people will be able to leverage a certain system and/or philosophy - some will be hindered.

I know it might seem overly relativist - even nihilistic - to simply dismiss the importance of systems and philosophies, in the manner I'm doing. But I actually think the people involved are so much more important. Even something as banal as enthusiasm for a certain system can matter tremendously. Does this means system is irrelevant? No, because learning more about out what systems match what people under what circumstances has great value. But normative judgements on the merits of specific system or approach fall very short, I think.

To me, a conflict related to player agency is a conflict primarily related to the people involved and their expectations and interactions. Solving such a conflict is a social challenge, not a challenge of philosophy or game systems. Being aware and informed about the potential reasons for a conflict are important, so I'm not saying discussing what player agency is, is irrelevant. But I am saying that the knowledge gained is merely a tool to be used when resolving a likely mostly social and interpersonal challenge.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
It's exceedingly relevent - especially if your position is that narrativism provides more agency than simulationism.

In the real world, the one we inhabit, you are analogous to a character in a TTRPG, not the player of a TTRPG.

Narrative gameplay calls for a level of control that doesn't exist in the 'real world' or within the power of a character inside a TTRPG.

So for people like me, and probably @Oofta , there is definitely a distinction between these two types of conceptual agencies.

No, you are still players exercising your agency in an RPG. That's the one agency in question. You just prefer to have that agency limited to what your character can do or say.

That's really it. It's that simple.

Having agency limited isn't inherently bad. You're literally describing above how such limits enhance your enjoyment, and provide the experience you want. But people somehow see it as bad, and so they're fighting the simple explanation.
 

pemerton

Legend
Yet capacity to do X means you can either do X or you cannot. There’s no degrees there. And this is how your definition was phrased.
This isn't true, either as a matter of language use or as a matter of how things are in the world.

People can have impaired capacity. I have a limited capacity to run compared to (say) Cathy Freeman. The capacity of the United States to influence multilateral negotiations that it participates in is greater than the capacity of Samoa to do so. Etc.

Power is the same. It admits of degree. Likewise influence.

The Whitehall study is a famous piece of social epidemiological research that looked at the effect that limits on agency in the workplace have on health.

Etc.

Capacity itself isn’t scalar or binary of itself - the thing being capacitized determines the binary or scalar relationship. So it may be scalar for certain things, but it need not be for all things.

I don’t think that’s contentious at all. It’s readily accepted by almost all that narrative games provide more player authorship. What you are saying here isnt really much different than that.
I'm saying something quite different from that, and have been since posts in the low 200s.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don’t think what’s typically been meant by ‘player narrative control’ is the same concept as conch passing. It’s much more nuanced and meant to be short hand for the the kinds of things players get control over in PbtA or BitD that they don’t get control over in games like D&D.
First, your contrast is false. There is no aspect of the fiction that players in (say) Apocalypse World as per the book have control over, that players in my 4e D&D game played as per the books don't have control over.

I have made this point many times in this thread. But somehow "D&D" keeps getting used as if all D&D is how @Oofta or how @FrogReaver plays D&D.

Second, here is a typical example of how I have seen "player narrative control" being used in this thread:
i don't want the ability to influence the world for my character because that's not something people have the ability to do in reality, my suspension of disbelief is in effect for orcs, elves and magic, not meta-influencing reality.

<snip>

this point is actually reminding me of conversation of another thread in TTRPG general section, primarily that of immersion, and how the presence of meta-currencies and abilities (inspiration and luck points and such there but in this case narrative influence) breaks their immersion and disrupts their enjoyment, as they're not something the character would know of or be aware to use and capitalise on.
That is not a description of Apocalypse World, which involves no "metacurrencies", nothing like inspiration or luck pionts, and which - as the rulebook says - divides up the conversation in a very traditional way.

It is not mysterious how AW produces high player agency although it has a very traditional way of dividing up the conversation. It's because the GM is under certain obligations in respect of how they do their bit of the conversation. But in every discussion ever of Apocalypse World and similar games, that feature of the game seems to be ignored and instead we get nonsense about purely imaginary differences on the player side of the game.
 

pemerton

Legend
To me, a conflict related to player agency is a conflict primarily related to the people involved and their expectations and interactions. Solving such a conflict is a social challenge, not a challenge of philosophy or game systems. Being aware and informed about the potential reasons for a conflict are important, so I'm not saying discussing what player agency is, is irrelevant. But I am saying that the knowledge gained is merely a tool to be used when resolving a likely mostly social and interpersonal challenge.
Not all my concerns about degree of player agency are about conflict. To self-quote:
I have left games because I lacked agency in them. I have made deliberate decisions in the context of choosing games, and GMing games, having regard to the effect on player agency. In my Classic Traveller game, as I reported in some actual play reports, there was a sequence of sessions where the game drifted into lower-agency, high GM-exposition, play, and I took deliberate steps to change that.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
that players in my 4e D&D game played as per the books don't have control
I don’t understand why you keep bringing 4e into this. Do you think I’m talking about 4e d&d when I say use the d&d shorthand? Heck no you don’t. So why respond to me as if that’s what I’m talking about?

Edit:
By the way thanks for confirming you at least have a decent idea what I’m talking about when I say d&d.
I have made this point many times in this thread. But somehow "D&D" keeps getting used as if all D&D is how @Oofta or how @FrogReaver plays D&D.
 
Last edited:

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top